Wahi Kambron-Jones has taught his children many things: How to ride a bike, how to cook, how to play basketball, how to build a campfire. He also realizes that there are things he simply cannot teach his four teen-agers. So when Kambron-Jones decided to participate in a Poverty Simulation workshop later this month offered by the United Way of Greater Kansas City, he decided he wouldn’t do it alone.
He registered his wife and their blended family of four children, ages 19, 17, 16, and 15. He heard of the workshop through his employer, UMR in Overland Park, where he donates to United Way through a workplace campaign. “I thought it was great,” he says. “I thought it would be something that would be very informative. And then I thought, ‘why don’t we bring the kids’.”
After all, understanding poverty is an invaluable lesson that ultimately helps the community where you live, Kambron-Jones says. “Community starts at home. If it doesn’t, then you are not doing much good,” he says.
The poverty simulation workshop is designed to help participants begin to understand what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family trying to survive from month to month.
Kambron-Jones, himself, grew up with two brothers and two sisters in what he describes as a blue-collar working family in Houston. His dad worked at United Airlines helping to direct airplanes at the airport’s gates. His mom worked in sales for MCI telephone company. Kambron-Jones is raising his family in a middle-class household in Raytown. His wife is a pharmacy technician. “Everything is about perspective,” he says. “You need to know where you are in terms of the world.”
He doesn’t feel his children fully understand certain things about economics. Certainly, they don’t have an understanding about what is poverty. And, most importantly, what it would be like to live in poverty.
“There are a lot of life decisions coming on,” Kambron-Jones says of his children. “I hope this makes them better informed to adjust to adult life, to know what are the pitfalls and the consequences of having to live without.”
The workshop is an invaluable experience, says community volunteer Jimmie Stark. Stark was among a group of United Way board of trustees who participated in the poverty simulation a few years ago. It was insightful because you are given a unique point of view of understanding the hurdles people in poverty face, Stark says.
Especially revealing to Stark was the issue of transportation. “You realize how difficult it is to get a job, get to your job, get your children to child care, when you don’t have reliable transportation,” Stark says. “Those of us who have the luxury of two cars that are either new or working well, you really don’t think about how challenging it is to get a job when you don’t have transportation.”
Click here for more information about our poverty simulation workshop – Walking the Financial Tightrope